A R T I C L E
Musical Postcards: Some Interesting New Zealand Band-Related Ephemera
by Ian Duggan
I couldn’t help but pick myself up some unusual merchandise at The Bats gig at Nivara Lounge on March 6; a set of 16 postcards featuring images of a selection of their posters for gigs from New Zealand, European, American and Australian tours between 1982 and 2013! These I have added to a ragtag collection of other New Zealand band-related postcards, released over the last 35+ years.
Following on from the first postcards produced globally around 1869, New Zealand produced its initial efforts in 1897 and, until World War 1, the collecting of picture postcards was an extremely popular hobby both here and overseas. During this time, images were dominated by landscape and urban scenes, though some exist of musical ensembles, brass bands, and the popular venues of the time – bandstands. While postcards were still sold in reasonable numbers until recently, particularly to tourists, with the advent of email, and with ever-increasing postal costs, the use and sale of postcards today appears relatively limited.
The collection of The Bats postcards appears to have been produced in 2013 by designer (and former Toy Love roadie) Ian Dalziel. A point of interest among the depicted posters is one for a show at Auckland venue Windsor Castle, which features Shayne Carter’s “bat in a jar” – this item got a brief mention in Carter’s recent book ‘Dead People I have Known’. The posters depicted on the collection also have some Hamilton connections, including one for a ‘The Bats Orientation Tour’; although without a year, the poster states that the University of Waikato show was on 5 March, and landed on a Thursday, indicating that it almost certainly originated from 1987. One of the two ‘Silverbeet’ album/’Courage’ single era posters also includes an old Contact 89FM logo, and is a poster I have in my collection - being a gig I attended. The majority of the posters included were designed by the band members themselves, primarily by Paul Kean or Robert Scott.
Beyond these, there have been a number of postcards of New Zealand bands in the past. Postcard production enjoyed a mini-resurgence in the mid-1990s to early-2000s, when giveaway postcards could be found in all good cafes – including Hamilton’s favourite of the time, Metropolis Caffe. These included advertisements for recent and upcoming releases, including for a number from the Flying Nun label. Among my collection I have postcards advertising Martin Phillips and the Chills’ 1995 ‘Come Home’ single, the 3Ds’ 1996 ‘Strange New from the Angels’ album, and (The Bats-related) The Magick Heads ‘Before we go Under’ album (1995). While these all had room for an address, stamp and message, other postcard-sized cards were also released at the time purely for advertising purposes; on these, the entire reverse-sides were taken up with information about the releases themselves. These include International Tall Dwarfs’ ‘Stumpy’ (1997), King Loser’s ‘Caul of the Outlaw’ (1996), Bressa Creeting Cake’s 1997 self-titled album, and Dimmer’s ‘Don’t Make me Buy out your Silence’ single (1996). Not all cards from the time were from Flying Nun, however, with other postcards including those for the ‘Aotearoa Hip Hop Vol. 1’ tour and release (1998), and Strawpeople’s ‘No New Messages’ album (2000).
More recent New Zealand band postcard releases have included those produced for the ‘Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa’ exhibition, which ran at Auckland Museum from October 2016 to May 2017. Included among the postcards sold were images of Suburban Reptiles and The Enemy, as well as a series of historic ‘Rip it Up’ covers; among these was the magazine’s 2014 cover featuring Jennie Skulander of local band Devilskin.
Perhaps the favourite postcard in my collection, however, is one advertising Patea Maori Club’s ‘Poi E’, likely originating from around the time of its original release in 1984; it features the art associated with the release, ‘Kahui rere – Ngarauru’, created by Joe Wylie, with its moa riders, its half-man/half-tuatara creatures and flying people.